The Journal of Arthroplasty, Volume 32, Issue 1, 256 - 262

Articulation of Native Cartilage Against Different Femoral Component Materials. Oxidized Zirconium Damages Cartilage Less Than Cobalt-Chrome

Vanlommel, Jan et al.


Oxidized zirconium (OxZr) is produced by thermally driven oxidization creating an oxidized surface with the properties of a ceramic at the top of the Zr metal substrate. OxZr is much harder and has a lower coefficient of friction than cobalt-chrome (CoCr), both leading to better wear characteristics. We evaluated and compared damage to the cartilage of porcine patella plugs, articulating against OxZr vs CoCr. Our hypothesis was that, owing to its better wear properties, OxZr would damage cartilage less than CoCr. If this is true, OxZr might be a better material for the femoral component during total knee arthroplasty if the patella is not resurfaced.


Twenty-one plugs from porcine patellae were prepared and tested in a reciprocating pin-on-disk machine while lubricated with bovine serum and under a constant load. Three different configurations were tested: cartilage-cartilage as the control group, cartilage-OxZr, and cartilage-CoCr. Macroscopic appearance, cartilage thickness, and the modified Mankin score were evaluated after 400,000 wear cycles.


The control group showed statistically significant less damage than plugs articulating against both other materials. Cartilage plugs articulating against OxZr were statistically significantly less damaged than those articulating against CoCr.


Although replacing cartilage by an implant always leads to deterioration of the cartilage counterface, OxZr results in less damage than CoCr. The use of OxZr might thus be preferable to CoCr in case of total knee arthroplasty without patella resurfacing.

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